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Station 1: Jesus is condemned to death

Mark 15:1-15

As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.

Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. Then he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

Jesus aroused many emotions and reactions by stirring up the religious and secular powers, exposing the ways in which they have controlled and bound people to their systems of order. During the years of his ministry, Jesus brought glimpses of something completely different. He broke down the walls between in and out, clean and unclean, worthy and unworthy. He invited people to follow him into something unfinished. He invited people into the kind of risk that exposes one’s true self.

Unfinished is a word that elicits particular reactions and fears. We like things to be sure, certain, tidy, neat and finished before we risk our money or time or other kind of investment. Work, repairs, projects and papers left unfinished create a burden and demand attention among all the other responsibilities and demands of each day. That Jesus invited followers into something unfinished, what he calls “The Kingdom of Heaven,” speaks to God’s desire for relationship, community and participation in the work of restoring creation.

Jesus was familiar with the risks he was taking and the risks he invited fisherman, tax collectors and ordinary people into. In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells Andrew and Philip, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Jesus did not simply die in our place. If that were true, none of us would have to die, but Jesus invites those around him to risk their lives to add pieces to the unfinished Kingdom of Heaven. There is something uniquely powerful about living our lives with the benefit of others ever before us instead of our own gain and security.

Prayer: May I have the courage to risk, to love others more than myself, and lend my life toward something greater than myself.

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Doing a Find/Replace on the “Kingdom of God”

Our language and the metaphors we employ to speak of God and what God does shapes us in ways we are often unaware of. This is something I’ve been working through the past couple of years. Where I used to embrace the language of the “Kingdom of God,” my journey away from patriarchal imagery for God and the movement of God through creation toward non-gendered, synergistic, and immanent language created a tension for me in that I could not navigate beyond. The “kingdom” language that streams through the biblical text and is even favored by Jesus does not resonate in our modern context and implies images of God that are easily misunderstood, potentially harmful, and echo themes of colonization. I’m over it. Rather, I find “the Presence of God” to be much more appropriate language. Presence implies an immanence while also implying the possibility of absence when we fail to embody God in our places. Presence removes the patriarchal nature of “kingdom” language and replaces it with language empowers us to participate with God continually. Responsibility is placed on us. I find this to be deeply incarnational, kenotic, and highly appropriate.

Thoughts? Critiques? Where does this metaphor break down or hit a wall? What non-patriarchal metaphors do you find helpful and useful?